Withnail & I, the cult film about a pair of booze-obsessed actors, turned 30 this year. So, it’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate this landmark of British cinema with a large gin and a pint of cider (ice in the cider), swiftly followed by a trip up to Cumbria to recreate the holiday that Richard E Grant’s Withnail and Paul McGann’s Marwood go on by mistake. Here’s how…
Getting to the Lake District
Our two heroes drove a battered Jaguar MKII all the way from Camden to Cumbria, so if you’re after the true Withnail & I experience, then you’ll need to hire yourself one of these classic Jags. Try Vintage Classics, or pick one up nearer Cumbria, or go for the MKII’s modern equivalent, the Jaguar XF. You’ll find one at any higher-end car rental service. Sixt has a decent list.
Visiting Sleddale Hall
Sleddale Hall is the secluded farmhouse in the Wet Sleddale Valley, near the village of Shap, that doubles in the film as Crow Crag, the dark and rain-soaked cottage that Withnail borrows for the weekend from his Uncle Monty. The house is privately-owned but committed fans eager to take a look from the outside will find it easy enough to find with the help of Google Maps. Once off the M6 and into the valley, park at the reservoir or the easily-spotted farm and head five minutes north (up the hill) on foot. If you’re staying in Shap, there’s a well-marked route for walkers.
Where to stay instead
Without Uncle Monty’s countryside retreat at your disposal, your best bet is one of Cumbria’s many places to stay. We enjoyed our time at the George & Dragon in Clifton, while Sally Cottages, which has self-catering options across the area, and the charming Tottergill Farm also come recommended. If you want to stay as close to Sleddale Hall as possible, then the Greyhound Pub is a good option.
Of course, for any authentic Withnail weekend you must demand to have some booze and the town of Penrith is where to go for a drink-fuelled evening. Like Withnail and Marwood, we too languished in discontent – just in the town’s only nightclub, called The Warehouse, rather than by Sleddale Hall’s fire. If it’s a more traditional drinking den that you’re after, however, Penrith has them in abundance. The Last Orders and The Grey Goat are decent local haunts. When in Shap, try the Crown Inn – just keep an eye out for any irate poachers.
Round off your weekend in true Withnail & I style with a trip to a tea shop. Order yourself a cream tea and, if you’re drunk enough, you can also make a nuisance of yourself by loudly calling for ‘the finest wines available to humanity’, just like Withnail did. The film’s writer and director Bruce Robinson filmed that brilliant scene at a chemists’ in Milton Keynes, but sourcing a Cumbrian tea shop to act as understudy is not a tough task. The Abbey Coffee Shop in Shap is a quaint and excellent place to stop for a scone or two, or you might want to try the Malmerby Stores & Tearoom in Penrith.